Good Evening Commissioners, my name is Kristin Luebbert. I am a community member, teacher, and a member of the PFT and the Caucus of Working Educators.
I have had the opportunity lately to reflect on the fact that much of adult life entails learning how to confront and accept loss and then searching for the grace to navigate that loss in a productive way. Loss is the continuing thread of adulthood–whether it is sudden, shocking, and tragic, or simply the expected (yet no less difficult) result of a long life lived in a large and various family and community.
It also occurs to me that our children, our students, the people you say you work for and on behalf of, should be protected from unnecessary loss. We are all aware of the fact that many aspects of the country and society we live in have caused too many of our children to suffer unimaginable loss. Some of our students come to us having lost a home, a parent or other caregiver, a sibling, or having lost the stability they need and deserve. Our schools should be a balm for these losses, a safe haven to shelter our students from the wider world even as we prepare them to face and transform it.
However, too often in these past years, the people in charge of caring for and maintaining these schools for our children seem to blithely inflict more loss upon them. The people in charge cut nurses, counselors, teachers, classroom assistants, librarians, specialists, and sometimes even entire schools as if they are simply getting rid of surplus canned goods or old clothes. When questioned on these tactics, those in charge simply reply that all these decisions are left to the principals. In truth, the principals are simply charged with which loss they want to inflict on their school communities. They are never given the “choice” to run a school with every resource their community needs and deserves–the same resources that the richer, whiter districts in the suburbs take for granted.
Yet at the same time that our schools and students suffer loss after loss of essential staff and resources needed to give them the schools they deserve, the people in charge manage to find money for endless lawsuits and outside contracts for specious services. As those in charge you must stop choosing to inflict loss on the most vulnerable members of our community. You must decide that our children should not suffer one more loss that you can prevent.
I simply ask all of you to remember what John Dewey said over one hundred years ago: “What the best and wisest parent wants for his child, that must we want for all the children of the community. Anything less is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy.”